Maldives – A ‘Slice of Heaven’ On Earth!
The Maldive Islands sprawl in the Indian Ocean like some divine confetti sprinkled from the heavens above! They literally offer a heavenly getaway for those who wish to experience creative solitude!
By Vimla Patil
If you are looking for an once-in-a-lifetime holiday like I did, you should head straightaway for the blue lagoon-surrounded Maldive Islands. These coral islands – some 1190 of them – nestling in the Indian Ocean to the south of India – (approximately 2300 km away), offer you a veritable paradise with lush vegetation and crystal-clear blue waters. Scattered around the equatorial belt, the islands depict a tropical paradise. Palm encrusted and clean-as-a-whistle, these islands have golden-sparkling beaches, amethyst lagoons, coral reefs and a sea-bottom teeming with jade-green ocean flora and silver fauna of magical variety.
A natural wonder right in the midst of the azure sea, the Maldives never rise more than two feet above the sea level. Male, the main island which is the largest, has an airport and a huge shopping mall where whatever luxury goods you may desire are available. Huge power boats take you from the jetty to the island chosen by you for your holiday. The names of the islands, such as Bolifushi, where we stayed and which is in the South Male Atoll, are as romantic and exotic as the island country itself. The Maldives have 26 major atoll formations, of over 1,190 islands, the smallest being just enough for one human being to stand upon. The islands cover 90,000 sq. kms. and 99 per cent of the atolls are sea. Of the islands, only 199 are inhabited and 74 of them have small resorts, made of huts, with every modern convenience for visitors.
The fun of visiting the Maldives lies in snorkelling, swimming or even walking through the lagoons which are crystal clear and full of beautiful sea life. We not only walked through the shallow lagoons, but took the night boat to see undersea life by huge lights, an unforgettable experience indeed. We swam and snorkelled under the shallows, taking care to be safe and warm. All around were coral reefs and the underwater life was truly breath-taking. While we lounged on the tiny beach, the sight of coconut palms swaying in the balmy air and the lovely landscape inspired total peace of mind in our hearts. The climate is, by all standards, just right for sun-lovers. The monsoons are clement and fresh. The history of the islands, which goes back to the 5th century BC, is full of vignettes of sultans, queens and kings. The religion of the Maldives population is Islam and the language is Dhivehi.
Male is the capital. Duty free shops line the streets and every visitor comes here on arrival and for departure as well as for all commercial activity. A wide variety of accommodation is available. Each island offers privacy, comfortable rooms with food and lodging and plenty of water sports and leisure activities. The Soneva Fushi Resort on Kunfunado offers villas and rooms along the beach. Bordered by silver sand beaches that gently descend into the sea, the fabulous Soneva Fushi Resort truly looks idyllic. It offers the finest luxury and comforts. Its remoteness is important to its charm, offering the ultimate in barefoot luxury for which the oft-quoted phrase – No News No Shoes – was coined. This luxurious experience combines the natural beauty of the destination with sophistication and style. Many seasoned travellers describe it as Intelligent Luxury.Cycling, jogging and walking are the favourite pastimes of visitors here. The chefs turn out delicacies of international class or Maldivian seafood specialities and the ambience is perfect. Diving training, picnics to deserted islands and night fishing cruises are other exciting holiday activities.
What distinguishes the Maldives from other destinations is of course their unique and incomparable beauty. The myriad islands spread out in the Indian Ocean like sparkling emeralds surrounded by turquoise water. The sandy white beaches, palm groves and the coral reefs surround each island and create an unforgettable vision. One visit to this exotic destination and you are sure to be addicted to this slice of heaven where you can relax, surf and swim or snorkel. What is more, you can choose from 90 islands an island all to yourself and your friends and family. When I visited the Maldives, I was fortunate that we booked Bolifushi, an island not far from Male, entirely for our group. With me in this adventure were Prabhakar – my husband – and Mita and Madhuri, my friends. This, I believed was as close as I could get to paradise.
Amateur snorkelers, we still ventured in the shallow waters and ended up walking to another tiny island. Night fishing, seeing the ocean floor in the moonlight and boating between islands were other attractions. On our island, stood only one solitary residence, which had a kitchen and a pantry. Just outside this thatched hut was a tiny ‘personal’ beach where we could relax and enjoy the mild golden sunshine during the day and moonlight at night. Though we ate vegetarian food, the variety of fish was awesome with Tuna fish served as Kekkumas being the most popular delicacy.
For those interested in the topography of these islands, it is important to know that they are made of unique coral reefs and have always had a great potential for tourism because their tropical lagoons, deep vegetation and marine life have year-round appeal for visitors. The environment truly offers luxury in solitude as you watch spectacular sunsets from your private beach. Maldivian hospitality adds a beautiful touch with flowers in every room, exotic fruits and food of selected cuisines based mostly on seafood.
Tourism was introduced in the Maldives in 1972. Since then, it has successfully developed the islands into one of the most popular destinations of leisure seekers and honeymooners. Maldives tourism has grown rapidly and the number of tourist arrivals and resorts islands have multiplied manifold over the last forty-year period. Apart from a huge number of Indians and Sri Lankans, the islands are popular in the European market where they rank among the most attractive travel destinations in the tropics. Maldives have large natural resources for tourism and the island nation is a vibrant example of eco-tourism to protect the sensitive environment and underwater life. Divers and snorkelers enjoy the profuse underwater resources, just as beach tourists are fascinated by the nature of the beaches and the exotic vegetation.
The history of the Maldive Islands is equally exotic. They have been known by different names in different periods of history for more than two thousand years. In the ancient age, Malé was called “Mahal”, “Mahal Dvipa” or “Maléldvip”. Throughout the past centuries, Malé or Mahal has been the most important island and the capital of the country. A study of the ancient names shows that in the 9th, 10th and 11th centuries, the original Mahal Dvipa became Islamic with hordes of Middle Eastern travellers settling in the islands. The islands then became Mahaldib, and later became Maldives when they became a part of the British Empire. However, Maldivians themselves use the name “Dhivehi Raajje” when they refer to their country, meaning “The nation of the Dhivehi People”. Dhivehi is also the language spoken by the people of the Maldive Islands. Whatever the name of this fairytale nation, its superlative beauty and soul-rejuvenating peace are undoubtedly the most fabulous gifts for visitors. No wonder they call this tiny country ‘a slice of heaven’!
Did you know?
The People of the Maldive Islands are called Dhivehis and Speak the Dhivehi Language
The people of the Maldives or Dhivehis are an ethnic group living in the Republic of Maldives and the Island of Minicoy in India’s Union Territory of the Lakshadweep Islands. All Dhivehis share the same culture and speak the Dhivehi language, which belongs to the Indo-Aryan language group. Historians divide Dhivehis into three communities; The main group of 2,50,000 lives on the islands and atolls and adds up to 70 per cent of the Dhivehis. Other communities, smaller in size, speak similar languages and live in specific islands in the group.
Tagged with: Islands • Travel
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